Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com criticizes me along with Flynt Leverett, Hillary Mann Leverett, and Paul Craig Roberts for suggesting the possiblity that the U.S. might have interfered in Iran during the recent presidential election and subsequent unrest and violence in the streets.
He begins by talking about the Cold War and the “us versus them” mentality. Then he talks about people who “defended Slobodan Milosevic” and said there was “a CIA-inspired plot to bring the former Yugoslavia into the American empire.”
Raimondo boasts that he, on the other hand, “took a more nuanced position” that recognized the badness of the U.S. intervention but didn’t consider anti-Molosevic Serbians “tools of U.S. imperialism” even while acknowledging that “yes, the U.S. was involved in the movement to bring down the Serbian strongman”, that “there were no doubt a cadre of dedicated U.S. agents” interfering in Yugoslavian affairs. His point is that despite U.S. interference, “the great mass of people decided to act on genuine grievances”, and were not just all “fifth columnists” working for the CIA.
These people “took a reflexively anti-U.S. position”, unlike his own “nuanced” stance critical of the U.S., in which he called the comparison of Milosevic to Hitler “bunk!”
He goes on about this for a while before coming to “a small but vocal number of U.S. anti-interventionists” who, he suggests, think that “If Iran is being threatened by the U.S. government, then the regime must be unconditionally defended, no matter how bloody the repression.”
These people “are assuming a degree of competence on the part of the U.S. government that is simply not realistic”. U.S. funding and resources for Iranian opposition groups and dissidents “more often than not, do more harm to the U.S. cause than good. Why assume our government is any better at exporting democracy than it is at delivering the mail or running the auto industry? U.S. ‘democracy promotion’ abroad is nothing but a joke, albeit an expensive one.”
Raimondo then says that these kinds of “reflexive response against the Iranian ‘spring'” by people like the Leveretts, Roberts, and me, “is representative of the ‘old thinking,’ the Cold War paradigm that forced everyone into one of two camps.”
He then points out that Ahmadinejad’s leading opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has “impeccable” “anti-U.S. credentials” and that what we’re seeign in Iran is not “a CIA-engineered attempt at regime-change”, but “a split in the Iranian political elite.”
The problem with Raimondo’s argument is that it’s founded entirely upon strawman fallacies, beginning with his assertion that I have “unconditionally defended” the Iranian regime.
Raimondo would be hard-pressed to support this claim. It’s merely a reiteration of the propaganda device in which criticism of the U.S. equals “support” for whatever unfriendly government. I was called a “Saddam supporter” on many occasions prior to and following the U.S. invasion of Iraq for observing the fact that there was no evidence that Iraq still possessed WMD. Raimondo’s argument is based on an equivalent logical syllogism, equally idiotic.
His characterization of my article on the matter as a “reflexive response” is also curious, in light of the 69 footnotes I included documenting the long history of U.S. interference in Iran and pattern of similar destabilization operations elsewhere clearly demonstrating the plausibility of the scenario I opined might be possible.
And Raimondo goes to great length to characterize what I and others have said as being a claim that the people demonstrating in the streets in Tehran protesting what they believed to be a fraudulent election and supporting their candidate Mousavi were all “fifth columnists” or a “tight network of Washington-controlled drones programmed to do the CIA’s bidding”.
This, frankly, is asinine nonsense. I, for my part, never suggested any such thing. In fact, I described the protests in Iran as a legitimate “grassroots” uprising in a recent interview with Dori Smith of Talk Nation Radio.
Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett didn’t suggest any such thing, either. Raimondo’s beef with them seems to be that they wrote that Ahmadinejad actually won the election. “One wonders what sort of evidence would convince the Iranian regime’s anti-interventionist defenders that the Ahmadinejad camp engaged in massive election fraud”, he writes.
Again, the logic is that if you say Ahmadinejad won, you are a “regime defender”, which, again, is asinine nonsense. The fact is that there remains no concrete evidence of election fraud. That is not to say it didn’t occur, and there are some indications that this may have been the case, but it is far from known as an absolute fact. And, as the Leveretts point out, there is also plenty of reason to believe Ahmadinejad legitimately won.
I’m a fan of Antiwar.com, as well as of Raimondo. I expect this kind of smear from the mainstream media, such as James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal including me among so-called “Lefties for Ahmadinejad”. But I have higher expectations of Raimondo and am disappointed to see him resort to the same kind of fallacial arguments and propaganda devices as were used to smear the anti-Iraq war crowd, of which he was a part.